By Calistus Bosaletswe

Vlogging is gaining traction among journalists who are embracing digital disruption, which has not spared the media industry in Botswana.

Journalists have devised innovative approaches, as media professionals take to the vlogging space that has long been dominated by non-professional journalists who mostly do not adhere to journalism professionalism and standards.

Some professional journalists in Botswana who have honed their skills in newsrooms have since migrated to vlogging which is comprised of recorded video content that is shared on different social media platforms.

As the media landscape changes, journalists are also racing against time to provide content on social media platforms to appeal to and attract a youth audience, that often relies on alternative sources to get information as opposed to traditional media platforms. 

There is a general consensus among journalists who are into vlogging that the medium, which is more often referred to as visual podcasting, can be a platform that journalists use to cover stories that are often ignored in the mainstream media. 

A podcast dubbed 20th Avenue Podcast, which is one of the first podcasts in Botswana has since migrated to vlogging.

Dumisani Stanley Ncube is among the journalists who started podcasting in 2016 where he would record audio, edit, and upload his podcast on audio platforms such as Audiomack and SoundCloud. 

Ncube, who also contributes lifestyle stories for Mmegi newspaper – the biggest and oldest newspaper in Botswana – migrated to vlogging where he would record and share videos on multiple platforms.

His move to migrate from audio to visual podcasting came with the rise of social media. 

He said vlogging on social media became popular so he migrated from audio to visual podcasts to attract and serve a youth audience who mostly rely on social media platforms for news.

“I migrated from audio podcasts to visuals when visual podcasts known as vlogging started gaining traction on social media. We had to move with [the] times since many people now could easily access visual podcasts on social media as opposed to audio podcasts which were uploaded on audio platforms,” said Ncube. 

He said it was easy for him to migrate from audio podcasts to visuals since he has all the skills to record, edit, and upload videos on different platforms. 

Monetising vlogs

His vlogging content is currently shared on different platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. Ncube is convinced that vlogging has the potential to generate revenue though it is still in its infancy in Africa.

He said that monetising content so far was a challenge since most advertisers are also learning about vlogging which is fairly a new territory. 

He remains hopeful that in the future there is a possibility of monetising and attracting advertisers. 

“We have seen small businesses supporting some visual podcasts and we remain hopeful that the corporate sector will join the bandwagon in the future,” added Ncube. 

He is confident that the more professional journalists come on board, there is greater possibility of demystifying the negative perception synonymous with vlogging.

He indicated that currently vlogging is littered with content geared towards humiliating, cajoling and shaming people. 

With journalists coming on board, Ncube remains confident that they will build trust among audiences while the future of content monetisation is also promising as it has the potential to attract advertisers.

He believes vlogging is a space that is supposed to be dominated by professional journalists as opposed to mushrooming vloggers who hardly adhere to journalistic ethics. 

Currently, Ncube is vlogging on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube while he also has content that can be easily accessed on the 20th Avenue Podcast website.

The other challenge that remains with vlogging is access to the internet which is still expensive for most people. 

Ncube said that as a result of lack of access to the internet, many people are unable to view content on YouTube channels but prefer social media platforms hence there was a need to create video content for social media.

So far, Ncube says the 20th Avenue Podcast is viewed around the globe while the vlogging content viewership is picking up locally lately.

The 20th Avenue Podcast which covers general issues has been able to feature the likes of South African award-winning television presenter, Bonang Matheba, Idols SA presenter, ProVerb, former Nigerian footballer, Jay Jay Okocha and other local artists on an array of issues. 

A global reach

Meanwhile, former Botswana Gazette editor, Lawrence Seretse who has since ventured into vlogging, is optimistic about the future of vlogging. 

Seretse who is a host to a visual podcast known as Punchline Podcast with Lawrence Seretse is convinced that content with cross-border appeal has the potential to attract viewership for most local content.

He believes that through cross-border reporting, local vloggers have a high chance of penetrating the regional and global market since the viewership locally was too small. 

 Seretse indicated that the approach among local vloggers should target content that will appeal to a global audience and be able to attract viewership globally. 

 “Vloggers allow journalists to capture unreported stories that have an international appeal. Issues such as gender equality and LGBTIQ rights are more understood globally,” he said.

So far, Seretse has seen an increase in traffic to his podcast platform on his YouTube channel due to a recent interview with a transgender woman. 

“The traffic was mostly from international audiences,“ said Seretse. 

He believes that vloggers could benefit more if their approach tends to appeal to global and international approach audiences.

He said that there is a need for professional journalism ethics since there is no normal gatekeeping which is a norm in traditional newsrooms.

Seretse believes that there are areas that have not yet been exploited in vlogging that could attract partnership and sponsorship from international non-profit organisations that might feel aligned to a cause that the content specifically addresses. 

He indicated that such partnerships in content monetisation are crucial, especially in the absence of the YouTube Partnership Program (YPP) , which gives content creators access to YouTube resources and monetisation features.

Botswana is not among the countries that are part of the YPP which has disadvantaged many content creators who are not benefiting from YouTube’s monetisation features. 

Seretse is of the view that the ultimate goal is to monetise content through the YPP. 

Journalism vs vlogging

He remains optimistic that Botswana will join other countries in the region such as Namibia and South Africa where content creators are paid heftily for providing content to YouTube. 

He also shared Ncube’s sentiments that internet access remains a challenge for most people in the country. 

He indicated that many people use Facebook due to the expensive internet costs, making it difficult for many people to access content on platforms such as YouTube. 

Seretse also stated that the challenge with vlogging is that it requires one to have resources to document content.

“Assembling a team to document such stories is a challenge given that some of the team members have other things to do. If they are offered a job somewhere that I am unable to match, that means I will not be able to document my story,” said Seretse. 

With years in journalism, content creation becomes more challenging since many people have expectations that they should be able to follow journalism ethics to the letter. 

He said that it is not an easy task for him, unlike the myriad of vloggers known for victimising and humiliating others. 

Seretse indicated that for professional journalists, it is not easy to create content because there are certain expectations that many would expect from journalists as opposed to ordinary vloggers who often create content without adhering to journalism standards.

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab

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